Before dinner with antisemitic white nationalist, Trump avoided disavowing right-wing extremists for years

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Donald Trump has been caught in the latest of several firestorms over his ties to far-right extremists after he had a two-hour dinner last week with white nationalist Nick Fuentes and Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, who, like Fuentes, has made anti-Semitic remarks.
The former president insists he only wanted to meet Ye and that the rapper and designer unexpectedly brought Fuentes, who Trump reportedly doesn't know. Some Republicans have defended Trump, saying the media practices a "double standard" by not covering Democrats with hardline connections.
"I had no idea what his [Fuentes] views were, and they weren't voiced at the table ... or it wouldn't have been accepted," Trump told Fox News Tuesday in his latest attempt to explain his attendance at the dinner.
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Calling himself Israel's "best friend," he said, "Why aren't people condemning Antifa?"
While Trump has distanced himself from Fuentes -- and from Fuentes' history of racist, white racist and sexist comments, as well as his anti-Semitism -- he has not yet directly denounced Fuentes, despite a chorus of critics inside and outside his party.
It's not the first time this has happened.
PHOTO: In this file photo dated Nov. 11, 2020, far-right activist Nick Fuentes holds a rally at the Lansing Capitol in Lansing, Michigan (Nicole Hester/Ann Arbor News via AP, FILE)
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2016: Trump goes back to David Duke's remark
During his first presidential campaign, Trump initially appeared to struggle with an answer on whether he would accept the support of David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader who had said Trump "deserved a close look" in this year's election.
Trump was pressured on CNN over whether to forego Duke and other white supremacists like the KKK who supported his campaign.
"Just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke, OK?" said Trump.
"I don't know at all what you're talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists," he added after being asked about it three times. "So I don't know. I don't know - did he support me or what's going on? Because I don't know anything about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.”
"I have to see the group. I mean, I don't know which group you're talking about," Trump said at one point in the interview. "You wouldn't want me to judge a group I know nothing about. I would have to check. If you would send me a list of the groups I will investigate and I would certainly decline if I thought there was anything wrong."
Years earlier, in 2000, Trump had cited Duke's participation in the Reform Party as a reason not to run for the White House under their banner. Days before his CNN appearance, he said: "David Duke endorsed me? OK everything good. I deny, OK?”
Trump later accused the CNN exchange of "poor earphones."
"I could barely hear what he was saying," he said, referring to host Jake Tapper. “I listen to different groups. I don't mind disavowing anyone. I disavowed Duke at a big conference the day before.”
2017: Charlottesville Rally
Perhaps Trump's most notorious comments about extremists were after the deadly 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which Fuentes attended.
This demonstration was widely condemned after a counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was murdered.
Trump, meanwhile, insisted that not everyone who attended the event was a white nationalist.
"You had a lot of people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists," Trump said at a news conference. "The press treated her absolutely unfairly."
"They also had some very good people on both sides," he said.
These comments led to denunciations from Democrats and some Republicans. President Joe Biden also said the response was a motivator for him to run against Trump in 2020. Days later, Trump insisted he had made a "fine statement."
"I don't want to rush off and just make a statement to make a political statement," he said. In the years since, he's claimed he's been misunderstood.
PHOTO: Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in support of Republican candidates ahead of the midterm elections November 7, 2022 in Dayton, Ohio. (Gaelen Morse/Reuters, FILE)
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2020: QAnon
Trump also notably avoided denouncing QAnon in August 2020, the rogue conspiracy theory movement that claims, among other discredited beliefs, that a satanic cabal of sex traffickers operates a "deep state" within government and other institutions that conflict with Trump stand.
The conspiracy has been classified as a threat by the FBI, and various violent attacks have been attributed to supporters.
When asked about it during a White House news briefing, Trump said he was unaware of the theory but welcomed the support of his supporters.
MORE: Pence, some other Republicans rebuke Trump over dinner with white nationalists
"I don't know much about the movement other than understanding that they like me a lot. which I guess. But I don't know much about the movement," Trump said.
"I've heard it's gaining popularity, and what I'm hearing ... these are people who don't like to see what's going on in places like Portland and places like Chicago and New York and other cities and states," he added . "I heard these are people who love our country and just don't like to see it. So I don't really know anything about that, other than that they supposedly like me, and they'd like to see problems in those areas too, like especially the areas that we're talking about, go away."
Since leaving office, Trump has embraced QAnon-related messages more openly, including on social media.
2020: Proud boys
In a debate with Biden in September 2020, Trump declined to denounce the Proud Boys, a group of white nationalists and male chauvinists.
When asked if he would condemn white supremacist groups, Biden followed suit and urged him to specifically censure the Proud Boys.
"Proud Boys stand back and stand by," Trump replied.
"But I'll tell you what, I'll tell you what, someone needs to do something about Antifa and the left because this isn't a right-wing issue," he said.
Thereafter, Trump's use of the phrase "stand by" was questioned, and some Proud Boys members wrote in private channels that Trump had hinted at tacit support for them and their tactics.
Before dinner with the anti-Semitic white nationalist, Trump avoided dismissing far-right extremists for years, originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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